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The future of ‘Standing to Sue’ in environment and climate change litigations in Nigeria

Taofeeq N. Alatise


Locus standi has been generally identified as one of the fundamental procedural impediments to access to justice in judicial proceedings. This is even more profound in access to justice in environment and climate change litigations, where public-spirited individuals and non-governmental organisations are becoming actively involved in advocacies at pressuring countries to implement their obligations under national and international agreements through litigation. While some courts in Global North and South jurisdictions are adopting innovative and imaginative ways to interpret standing rule to improve access to justice in environment and climate change litigation, standing requirement is still a major hurdle to environment and climate justice in Nigeria, resulting in the premature dismissal of significant suits instituted by NGOs by courts. Nigeria has a profound common law tradition and its courts are still stuck in the practice of demanding stringent standing requirement from litigants, especially on issues of breach of public rights like environment and climate change. While there have been attempts in the recent times to adopt a liberal approach to standing, the inconsistency of the past efforts may become a challenge to future environment and climate change litigation. The paper, therefore, examines the practice and attitude of courts in Nigeria to standing requirement generally and particularly on environment and climate change litigations. While the paper argues that there is the need for Nigerian courts to evolve strategies similar to their counterparts elsewhere by opening their doors to environment and climate change litigants, the paper recommends a statutory recognition of standing to sue for any person and NGOs in environment and climate change litigation.